The Rising of the Shield Hero #7 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #7

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi is getting worried about the other three Heroes. They went missing before the battle with the gigantic Spirit Tortoise and haven’t been seen since. Not that he really wants to work with them, or likes them at all, but if they die he’s in trouble. But his hunt gets derailed when the Spirit Tortoise resurrects bigger and meaner than ever. And surprisingly, one of the Spirit Tortoises’s familiars shows up offering to help them take it down. Naofumi barely survived the last round, and he hasn’t had time to recover fully, but there’s no choice but to engage again and try to find the way to really kill something the size of a mountain.

Most of this book is a single fight, but various complications and new information about the overall situation keep things interesting. Naofumi finally gets to see what Fitoria meant about saving the world versus saving the people, as he learns the Spirit Tortoise’s true purpose.

And we get some surprise allies (and surprise enemies) for the last fight.

I liked the new magic Naofumi discovers by the end. This one he describes as more like math, and requiring more mental work to set up. When he mentions that it was harder to learn to read the book of spells than to actually learn the spells, I laughed, because it’s those kinds of ironic details that make Naofumi so much fun to read. It’s unclear how much he’ll be able to progress in this area without a teacher, but it does give him access to yet another useful way to branch out.

It was also nice to see the Shield of Wrath mostly taken out of the equation when it comes to fighting. Naofumi has been relying on his Curse shields a lot in previous books, but now he’s fighting smarter, and also finding that it won’t always be his ace shield.

Ost is also a good addition to the cast. She disturbs Naofumi on a visceral level, but he finds himself liking her a lot more than he expected. She’s too focused on helping them take down the Spirit Tortoise, even though she’s technically a Spirit Tortoise familiar. She gives Naofumi another perspective on heroism. Even though he can’t do what she does, he respects her for that strength of character.

Given the ending, I am very much looking forward to where this goes next. I rate this book Recommended.

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The Rising of the Shield Hero #6 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #6

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi has gone past frustration to worry. The other three Legendary Heroes have now lost twice—and not just lost, but lost in one attack. Naofumi himself doesn’t feel strong enough to face what’s coming, and he’s still far ahead of the others. But he and the other Heroes have different ideas about what it means to get stronger. Can he get the other Heroes to understand that despite levels and stats this isn’t a game?

This book is mostly a training arc, but it’s not exactly what you might expect. Naofumi learns about another potential form of power and decides to explore it (he’s really desperate to find some way, any way, to attack, but given how much his Shield restricts him in that aspect I suspect at best he’ll just figure out another way to power up his defense). But even more than “another magic system”, he’s interested in his team learning the CRAFT of fighting. Swordsmanship lessons for Raphtalia, in addition to new spells. Anything at all to make Rishia less useless. Tactics. Strategizing with the people who live in this world about the best ways to approach a fight, because the one thing everyone knows is that the waves are going to get worse, and given how much trouble he’s had with the last few that doesn’t leave Naofumi full of happy thoughts.

Because Naofumi understands that despite all the RPG-like systems in this world, he can’t treat it like a game.

If this were just a game, then we should have been able to overcome any difficulty just by leveling up enough to overpower the enemy. But this was reality, albeit a different one than I was accustomed to. No matter how high our levels got, we were eventually going to need another pair of hands.

The other three Heroes are looking worse and worse as time goes on. It’s not just that they’re stubborn and set in their ways. They don’t want to WORK. They’d rather go out and blow up monsters for quick EXP and loot than put in time and effort to learn real skills instead of the skills they can trigger from their weapons. They have ego issues, and now that they’re no longer being treated like gods, they’d like to get that admiration back. The fact that the regular citizens are starting to see their losses as a sign that they’re too weak isn’t spurring them to branch out. They’re just more determined to use their own upgrade paths to find success.

“The protaganist never loses.” It’s a dangerous philosophy. Naofumi knows he can die. He knows that if he dies he leaves behind a world that will continue to suffer. The other Heroes believe they’ll get a save point, or a reset. But Naofumi has trouble getting through to them because of their jealousy, and because Naofumi isn’t exactly tactful in how he’s approaching them.

I liked the new party members Naofumi gets, although I had wanted to see more of Keel. Personally I’m glad Naofumi gets another guy to chat with, as that should hopefully give him one party member who isn’t going to fall into harem-type antics. His evaluation of the fastest way they can improve is almost funny because it’s so uncomfortable. I wonder what it would take to get him a shield that would boost normal party member statuses.

The real heart of the book comes near the end, when Naofumi is faced with what it is to be a hero. He may feel like a total con man mouthing the lines, but he’s saying the right things and—much more importantly—DOING the right things. And maybe one day he’ll believe it. I really liked that contrast between his emotion and his actions. He may not feel like a hero, but as he keeps stepping forward when it’s necessary, he’s turning into one.

Overall this was another strong entry, although I do hope one of the other three Heroes breaks soon. Their constant denial of their current reality is starting to wear a bit thin. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #5 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #5

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi has cleared his name, mostly, which means it’s time to focus on getting stronger. An event at a nearby island chain promises a faster way to level up, so the queen sends him and the other three Heroes there to take advantage of it. But getting stronger is going to be far easier than becoming a team with the other three Heroes.

Don’t skip the prologue. Even though it mostly exists as a recap to catch people up if they haven’t read the previous books (or haven’t read them lately) there’s some great lines sprinkled in. I still find it really funny Raphtalia keeps trying to get through to Naofumi “Don’t you find ME a good enough reason to stay?” without quite saying it, but he’s too dense. He just can’t help remembering little things like people trying to burn him alive

The reason I wanted to get back to my world was simple enough: I hated this place.
They’d framed me for crimes, forced me to fight when I didn’t want to, and the knights that were supposed to be on my side tried to set me on fire. Who would want to stay in a place like this?

Or this little gem:

The book I’d been reading at the library, The Records of the Four Holy Weapons, had given terse descriptions of their character.
The Sword Hero was attractive and active, the Spear Hero was loyal, and the Bow Hero was a warrior for justice.
All that was well and fine for the sake of a story, but in reality the whole lot of them were pretty miserable to be around.

I’ve actually really missed the mechanics discussions from the first book, so I was happy to see an extended argument about how the systems of this world actually work. Because the answer is hilarious—Naofumi, the non-gamer, is getting completely different answers from Ren, Itsuki, and Motoyasu. All three of them really believe their methods work, and are the One True Upgrade Path, but they’re all completely different. (Of course they’re fighting about why everyone is lying to each other.)

So Naofumi, who had to do everything manually, decides to experiment. And finds THEY ALL WORK. And that leads him to understand some additional and very important differences between this world and the games the other three used to play. And why the Legendary weapons really are special in more ways than just allowing for a fully unlocked skill tree.

I also really liked that Naofumi is trying to think back on his own experience shortly after arriving, before everything went bad. How he realizes that he, too, had once had more options—and that closing himself off from others, from the world, is a large part of what’s limiting him now. It’s a rare bit of emotional honesty for him. And now I’m really curious to see what unique way his upgrades might have taken, even though he’s unlikely to ever recover that specific method.

And you really have to hand it to the weapon shop owner. Naofumi’s new discoveries basically mean he can get the benefit of that guy’s equipment for himself without buying it, but since Naofumi has spent so long building a good relationship with him, he lets Naofumi have the run of the place.

I love the fact that Naofumi has an iron constitution. This came up before, with Raphtalia getting motion sickness that he didn’t feel, but it comes up again with an immunity to getting seasick. It’s those little ties between his actual personality and the class he ended up with that I find neat. This also applies to the “grapes” he was enjoying at the bar. I can only imagine the shield’s poison resistance up skills were helping there . . . that was one of my favorite scenes in the book. I would be interested to learn if his resistance is getting passed to Raphtalia or if demihumans (or her in particular) just have a very high alcohol tolerance.

It’s also nice that Naofumi’s hard manual labor wasn’t entirely wasted. For example, he knows how to read. The other Heroes, because their weapons translate the spoken languages, never bothered. They could learn magic instantaneously, so why bother doing it the long way? The fact that it left them less capable in the long run didn’t even occur to them, because their whole focus has been on combat skills (and once again Naofumi is showing them up simply by virtue of having a greater range of skills and experience outside of combat to help).

This book is a significant step up from the previous four in several ways. Naofumi is actually making an effort to get along with other people outside Filo and Raphtalia, the worldbuilding continues to expand, some earlier mysteries gain new layers, and the writing has smoothed out. I’m really hoping that this series eventually gets an anime. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #4 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #4

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi has been accused of kidnapping Melty, the younger princess, and Motoyasu is determined to save her. Unfortunately, since Motoyasu’s party includes the very same princess Bitch who’s trying to kill Melty, Naofumi has no choice but to try to avoid him. If Naofumi can just get Melty to her mother, if the queen can learn the whole story, he has a chance to gain an ally. But Motoyasu isn’t the only one who wants to see the Shield Hero dead . . .

This book finally cuts Naofumi a lot of slack, and he’s able to see some actual gains. Unfortunately, the over-the-top catharsis at the end makes some of Naofumi’s vindication feel cringy instead of earned. I do like that it’s clear from Raphtalia that his poor attitude isn’t supported by the person who’s done the most for him. One thing I’ve liked about these books is that they portray Naofumi in unflattering ways, and for every admirable quality he’s got, he’s also clearly got a long way to go to actually be a hero, and not just in levels.

It is amusing how Naofumi, who is both lower level than the other Heroes and completely unable to attack (although some of his shields have counterattacks) is consistently taking down enemies that wipe the other three Heroes. Not Raphtalia or Filo, but Naofumi himself. There’s plenty of evidence his Curse Series Shields are not doing him any good, but he can’t stop himself from equipping his only effective way to attack.

This book also has a number of more light-hearted exchanges, which helps keep things from feeling too dark. Like this one:

“It’s your fault, Naofumi!”
“Oh, don’t go pinning that on me. You’re the one with arsonists in the family. Hysterical traits are inheritable, you know?”

Fitoria was a relief. Finally, someone who can act like the adult in the room. She has both power and wisdom, and isn’t afraid to challenge Naofumi’s terrible attitude. I love that she challenges him to step up and BE the Hero. And the threat that goes along with that. Because Naofumi has recognized it’s supposed to be bigger than him, but he’s still very childish in allowing his own hurt feelings to push away the other Heroes. Forgetting Motoyasu, at least Ren and Itsuki have shown they’re more willing to challenge what they’ve been told. A more intelligent approach to those two might have paid off, and if he could convince the both of them, Motoyasu might have followed (although the Bitch would have to get out of the picture first).

I also liked that Raphtalia gets more development, as she’s been sidelined in favor of Filo for a while now. Raphtalia has the potential to be more interesting, but since she’s not as loud, she tends to fade into the background of most scenes. If you’ve been reading the extra chapters there’s a nice callback to her backstory.

One of the more surprising aspects of this book is the characterization for Motoyasu. He’s always been a real pain, but Naofumi is catching glimpses of why Motoyasu, like Naofumi, was chosen to be a Hero. But Motoyasu can’t see how others are manipulating him, and that’s turning his more admirable character qualities into liabilities.

Overall this is a good continuation of the story. The characters continue to feel uncomfortably caught between depth and complexity and overly exaggerated behaviors, but the plot stays generally strong. I’m hopeful that Naofumi will find something redeemable in the other Heroes and find his place among them, although that’s clearly going to be a long time coming. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #3 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #3

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi is struggling with the consequences of what his Curse Series Shield did to Raphtalia, and determined to get her a cure. Unfortunately that means going back to Castle Town for some high-grade holy water. Along the way, he encounters a well-spoken young girl who complicates everything he thought he knew about the country that summoned him. In addition, the next wave is finally here, and Naofumi realizes to his horror that he’s somehow doing better than the other three Heroes . . . and that could have deadly consequences.

This picks up right where the second book left off, and wastes no time throwing additional problems in Naofumi’s face. Motoyasu, the Spear Hero, is increasingly determined to take Naofumi down (and “liberate” Naofumi’s party members for his own use). And because he’s currently the favorite of the princess Naofumi calls the Bitch, he’s got a lot of support in his attempts. Naofumi is growing more and more frustrated with both how Motoyasu’s irresponsible behavior endangers civilians and how no one is willing to see that Motoyasu is the problem.

But there are some bright spots, despite the relentless discrimination. The discussion on who’s really in charge of the country—and the actual amount of power the Bitch should have—comes as news to Naofumi. The queen, not the king, is in charge, but since she’s currently been traveling, he’s been dealing with her temporary substitute the king. And there’s a good chance the queen will be sympathetic to him, or at the very least, more fair. All he needs to do is hold out until she can return.

It’s also interesting to see how the other three Heroes’ game knowledge is proving an unreliable crutch. They recognize this wave’s “boss”, but because they expect it to work the same way as their games, they waste time and energy hammering at it with ineffective attacks, leaving Naofumi to once again try to clean up their mess. Naofumi can look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective, identify the problem, and propose an alternative solution. It’s the only time so far the four of them have done anything like fighting on the same team—and the Glass’s evaluation of Naofumi as the only REAL Hero spells a great deal of trouble for them, because Naofumi is pretty much completely optimized for defense. He really needs strong attackers to back him up, and right now Raphtalia and Filo are better than the rest of the Legendary Heroes.

And Raphtalia and Filo have hit their level caps, which means they can’t get stronger until they can class up, which would require the king to feel cooperative enough to let them use the Dragon Hourglass. Or else they’ll have to try to escape the country and talk someone else into letting them class up.

The deepening political stakes, as well as the revelation that the power structures don’t entirely favor the two nastiest people in the series, help elevate this book above the last. I’m less fond of adding yet another little girl who seems to be in love with Naofumi, although at least he’s just as horrified by the idea and refuses to entertain any romantic feelings for any of them. Overall, though, this series continues to develop in interesting ways, and I look forward to finding out what happens next. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #2 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #2

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi and Raphtalia have survived the first wave of interdimensional monsters, and it’s looking like they’ll have some time to prepare for the next one. Naofumi’s reputation is still shredded, but his efforts to protect the villagers got at least a little appreciation, and as he travels and fights, he starts carving out his own place in this new world. Frustratingly, his legendary Shield is only good at support roles. That has some unexpected consequences when he decides to raise a monster as a possible additional party member (or else source of quick cash) . . .

This volume is a lot less focused than the first book, and introduces some elements I don’t care for a whole lot, but overall was still a good read.

I didn’t like that Raphtalia actually went through with her conviction to re-take the slave curse. It delays Naofumi’s character development with learning to trust people (although I somewhat understand why, as he and Raphtalia have only known each other for less than a month). I’m also really not fond of the infighting between the girls, especially the “who’s going to sleep with Master” arguments. This is coming from someone extremely young and the way it’s phrased and presented is deliberately intending to invoke a harem vibe.

That said, there was still plenty to enjoy. Naofumi’s adventures in attempting to raise a monster (and his conclusion that one is more than enough, given how much he’s out for food) can be funny, as he’s basically making it up as he goes. The Shield is helping a bit too much. He wanted a pet, and possibly a mode of transportation. This puts Raphtalia unfortunately more in the background, as the only time she’s really got a role is as a source of conflict with Filo.

I liked how Naofumi is trying to use the skills he does have to improve—which means setting up as a traveling salesman more than anything else. Since the majority of his bonuses apply to cooking, compounding, medicine administration, and crafting, he turns to those areas as a way to try to earn some additional income and experience. It’s easy to sympathize with his frustrations, even though they’re also amusing, as he’s trying to figure out what GOOD any of this is going to do for his primary task of defeating the waves and the monsters they spawn.

This gradually leads into one of the best parts of the book. Naofumi has mentioned a few times what the other Heroes are up to, but hasn’t had much interest in them. Now things start coming back around to him as he finds himself dealing with the aftermath of their “good deeds.” The others see this world as a game world, as something less than real. And that means they don’t consider real-world consequences. It’s just “completing a quest.” There is no “after” for the villagers in their minds. But for Naofumi it’s different. He’s considered this world a real place ever since it betrayed him and abandoned him, and that’s one reason he hates it. But it also means he can look at the people living there as people, and think about consequences, and feel hurt at his own lack of skill to help them.

Character development is still a mixed bag. For Naofumi it’s excellent, as the book isn’t afraid to show him in a less than flattering light (that he’ll still even hesitate when asked to sell Raphtalia is indicative he’s got a LONG way to go—she’s put herself out for him, and he knows that, and the money STILL tempts him). But the cracks are starting to appear in his determination to hate everything. Raphtalia and Filo, the weapon shop owner, and the ordinary villagers are starting to get through to him, and resurrect pieces of the kinder person he used to be.

The true villains, though, remain extremely static. The Bitch and the king remain unrelentingly cruel, manipulative, and cheating, and all in very blatant ways. Motoyasu, the Spear Hero, still hasn’t let go of the idea that Naofumi is completely guilty of everything anyone says about him, and all of his own actions are completely right. There’s a bit more hope for the other two Heroes, but they’re still too wrapped up in their own self-interest.

Overall, despite some of the more typical light novel elements (having multiple girls fighting over who gets to sleep with the hero is a hard turn-off for me), the book is still pretty good, even though I think the first book is stronger. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero (The Rising of the Shield Hero #1)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Series: The Rising of the Shield Hero #1

Naofumi is an otaku happy to spend as much time and money on his hobbies as he can manage. One day, while reading an ancient book about the Four Holy Weapons, he ends up transported to another world as the legendary Shield Hero. But this new life is not all he wanted it to be. Shields are useless for attacking, so the Bow, Spear, and Sword Heroes all look down on him as an inferior class. And then the unthinkable happens, and Naofumi finds himself utterly friendless. And he can’t get out until all the chaotic waves have been defeated or he himself dies . . .

This is one I’ve had my eye on for a while, since the premise looked interesting. It reads a lot like a litRPG book. Stats, levels, icons, and various other game mechanics permeate this new world. A lot of Naofumi’s attention, especially in the later part of the book, revolves around taking down monsters for profit, upgrading equipment, and powering up his shield. That actually worked well for me, since part of the problem for Naofumi is that there is so much here LIKE a game, but it’s no fun at all for him. He’s stuck in someone else’s system, and his options are extremely limited. He gets stronger because he doesn’t want to die (there’s no indication of whether or not death will be real here, but it’s very likely).

It’s also a story that runs sideways to the expected in a lot of ways. It starts when the Heroes are first summoned—and all the others can think about is “what do we get out of risking our lives for some random world? We didn’t volunteer for this.” And it gets worse for Naofumi from there. He wants to be a hero. He wants to do good, protect people, stand up against evil, and live out this adventure as a wonderful opportunity. The world spits in his face. And he breaks. He can’t escape his obligation as a Hero—the magic that summoned him sees to that. But he’s lost everything, everyone, and all that’s left for him is to mechanically go through the motions and try not to die.

I liked the clever ways Naofumi uses to try to get around the fact that he can’t attack anything. (The reputation he earns for himself as a grouchy do-not-mess-with-me bastard is entirely his own fault, which is why I find those bits funny). The slavery bit could have gone in a very sketchy direction, but Naofumi can’t bring himself to think about anyone as actual people at that point. They’re either denigrating him, trying to pull one over on him, or equipment. What’s interesting is that even though slavery is very legal in this world, he’s still looked down on by natives for actually purchasing a slave, which indicates most people don’t find it socially acceptable. I think it works for the story, although I’m glad the ending tried to work things out a bit.

The prose is not the best. It’s hard to tell with translated novels like these if the weakness in wording is a problem with the translator or the source material, but since I can’t read the original language the specifics don’t matter much to me. There’s also an annoying habit of not tagging speech, so especially with the other three Heroes it’s hard to tell who’s saying what when they’re all together. Also, although Naofumi’s poor attitude is likely responsible for him turning most of the villagers into stock characters in his mind, it would be nice to see more nuance to the people around him.

Overall I did enjoy this, and am curious to see where it goes from here. I rate this book Recommended.